Updated: Nov 16, 2020
The ability to purchase your first home is as exciting as it is exhilarating, but without proper preparation it can also be a steep and expensive learning curve. Thus, this architectural blog provides a guideline on home inspections to assist first time homeowners in taking the next big step. If you are considering making an offer to purchase a home, then take a few minutes to read this article for an in depth home inspection checklist!
Your biggest resource in inspecting a home is usually right at your fingertips; your cellphone. While at the property take lots of photographs and videos, the more the better. This will give you the opportunity to scrutinise the house in your own time without relying on the staged advertised pictures. The next port of call is to conduct a second and possibly third viewing because the 1st home inspection is usually overshadowed by excitement and your perception of the space. Whilst your first impression is important, most new homeowners only conduct a critical review in the 2nd and 3rd inspections and this is where you are more likely to uncover oddities or defects. Thus, we have compiled two checklists; the intuitive first impression list to push you to imagine yourself within the existing space, and a second due diligence home inspection checklist to assist you in critically reviewing the house and property.
1) The intuitive home inspection checklist:
1.1) What did you notice about the entrance? The entrance is literally the first impression and ideally it should resonate with you or even provide clues on what’s to come. Furthermore, is it covered for protection from the elements or secure from intruders? How did you get from your car to the front door? Was the path even, wide enough and easy to navigate?
1.2) Did the flow of the house make sense for your family? Preferably spaces should go from very public to more private zones. If there are height differences consider who will use the space. For instance, if grandma and grandpa regularly spend the night will they manage a flight of stairs to get to their bedroom?
1.3) Pay attention to how light enters each room. Natural light is more favourable in creating warm environments. However, we live in a society where it is a necessity to be safety conscious. Are there any obvious security risks?
1.4) Can you picture your family living and growing in the house? Your needs today will be different in 5 years’ time. There may be new additions to the family or potential health problems down the line that need to be allowed for.
1.5) Gardens can be beautiful but equally expensive to manage. If there is a pool you may want to research how it is maintained and what that equates to in monetary terms. Hard landscaping (paving, tar, stones, etc) generally require less maintenance in comparison to soft landscaping (grass, flowers, etc). Over and above the cost, how much time are you prepared to invest in a garden?
2) The due diligence property inspection checklist:
2.1) Internal Inspection:
2.1.1) Indicators of rising damp are musty or stale smells, cracked or lifting floor finishes, walls or carpets that have different shades of colour, peeling or bubbling plaster, rotting skirting boards (even if the wall appears fine), and excessive condensation in which droplets are visible on surfaces.
2.1.2) Common leaks come from plumbing pipes so with the permission of the current homeowner flush all toilets and open all taps for a second or two to check for any leaks from the actual fitting and the pipe itself.
2.1.3) Cracks in either walls, floors or the underside of a concrete slab that are bigger than 1cm and occur frequently are often a sign of a compromised structural system.
2.1.4) Unfortunately, you can never be certain when something is being concealed deliberately so if any portion of a wall or floor is blocked then ask the current homeowner to make it accessible.
2.1.5) Additions and extensions that are not council approved are illegally built structures, so it is worthwhile to request the existing municipal approved drawings to do a quick check that the approved drawing matches what was built.
2.2) External Inspection:
2.2.1) If there is a pool, ensure that the current homeowners have a secure safety net or fence around it.
2.2.2) Pay attention to doors that lead to outside and whether there is a height difference between indoors and outdoors. If the height difference is minimal consider how water travels and if there is a chance of localised flooding or wind driven rain entering the opening.
2.2.3) Do any of the neighbours have buildings up against the boundary? It is usually assumed the relevant permission was obtained to build up against a boundary but that is something worth checking.
2.2.4) Be cognisant of big trees as they usually require assisted maintenance to safely reach the required heights for trimming and pruning.
2.3) The Roof:
2.3.1) The roof is one of the most important (and costly to rectify) features of a home. For this inspection there are two options. Either take a ladder to inspect it yourself, BUT it is incredibly important to note that you should only do this where you feel completely equipped to do so. You do not have to go inside or even on top of the roof. You can lean the ladder against a sturdy wall and take an internal and external video that you can scrutinise later. OR, invest in a home inspection company that can do this for you.
What to look for:
2.3.2) A complete and intact insulation layer. Gaps in your insulation are not only costly to rectify but until you do, you ultimately spend money to heat and cool your home to compensate for inadequately controlled heat loss or gain.
2.3.3) Complete tile, concrete, sheeting or waterproofing finishes with unblocked roof connections such as flashings, eaves, gutters, and downpipes.
Over and above your own inspections we still strongly recommend investing in a reputable home inspection company that can provide a professional once over on the house and property with particular emphasis around your concerns. Some revelations may be small and superficial whilst others may provide leverage on more serious items that need to be rectified as a condition of purchase, or as a means to negotiate the selling price.
The landscape of home inspections is in the process of evolving as President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed the South African Property Practitioners Bill B-21-2018. This will require property practitioners (including persons or companies who assess properties) to adhere to stricter accreditations and controls to provide consumers with more protection from the ‘voetstoots’ clause that is routinely inserted into private home sales. The promulgation of the Bill has not yet occurred which means it is not yet enforceable by law, but it is worthwhile to check that the home inspection company you use is already aware of the Bill and taking steps to be compliant with it.
Items and their condition that should be covered in your home inspection report:
* roof insulation as well as the external roof finish;
* roof connections such as flashings, eaves, gutters, and downpipes;
* ceilings or undersides of concrete slabs with particular reference to signs of water damage or cracking;
* all windows and doors in terms of their ability to fully open and close as this affects the air tightness of the house and the amount you will spend on heating and cooling;
* sanitary fittings and piping (toilets, basins, baths, showers and their pipe connections);
* any immediate fire hazards;
* hazardous material;
* any evidence of lifting or cracking floor finishes that could indicate ground disturbance;
* the general state of repair and maintenance needed, and
* the condition of walls and floors for structural soundness and rising damp.
Remember every home will have some kind of “defect”. What is important to understand is the extent of existing defects in order to make an informed and educated decision when purchasing a new home.